Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…
1. Among the various reasonable grounds and ends of observing festival solemnities, the principal are these:(1) The occasion which they afford to instruct ourselves and others in the mysterious doctrines of our religion.
(2) The engaging us seasonably to practise that great duty to God, the remembering and praising Him for His great favours and mercies.
2. For these purposes chiefly did God Himself appoint the Jewish festivals: e.g., the Passover. In compliance with which design the Christian Church has recommended to her children the observation of her chief festivals, continuing the time and name, though changing or improving the matter and reason of those ancient ones. The effusion of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost corresponded with the time when the Jews were obliged to "rejoice before the Lord," for the harvest newly gathered in, and the earth's good fruits bestowed on them; and then did God bountifully impart the first-fruits of His Holy Spirit. The benefit, therefore, and blessing, which at this time we are bound to commemorate, is in effect the publication and establishment of the evangelical covenant, the foundation of all our hopes, and claims to happiness; but more immediately and directly —
I. THE DONATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, AND TO ALL ITS MEMBERS.
1. God's gracious design was to reclaim mankind item their ignorance, errors, and sins, and to reconcile them to Himself by the mediation of His Son, whom He sent to instruct them in their duty.
2. To render this successful according to the capacities of human nature, it was requisite to provide convincing arguments to persuade men of the truth of these things; means to excite their attention to them; motives to accept them; and a power also to retain them firm in their belief, and uphold them in the performance of the conditions required.
3. To prevent, therefore, the disappointment of His merciful intentions, God to the ministry of His eternal wisdom adjoined the efficacy of His eternal love and blessed Spirit, the which not only conducted our Divine Saviour into His earthly tabernacle, but did continually reside with Him, and attend Him in the performance of His miraculous works, attesting the truth of His quality, commission, and doctrine, and exciting men to notice these things. Nay, farther, to induce them to comply with these gracious overtures, He faithfully promised that He would impart the same blessed Spirit, as the continual guide and comforter of all who should sincerely embrace them, and conform their lives to His righteous laws.
4. Now although the natural and ordinary manner of this Divine Spirit's operation is not by violent and sensible impressions, but rather in way of imperceptible penetration, hardly discovering itself except by its results; and though its proper and principal effects relate to the furthering our performance of the conditions of our salvation; yet more fully to satisfy the doubtful, confound the obstinate, and confirm the faithful, God was pleased, after our Lord's ascension, to dispense both to teachers and disciples more liberal and extraordinary communication of that Holy Spirit, attended with wonderful effects.
5. The Christian Church therefore obliges us at this time to commemorate that incomparable gift, then conferred more visibly on the Church, and still really bestowed on every particular member who is duly incorporated into it. It is so bestowed, that is, on each member; for the evangelical covenant extends to every Christian, and a principal ingredient thereof is the collation of this Spirit. This is the teaching of Holy Scripture, the doctrine constantly, and with very general consent delivered down in the Catholic Church.
II. THE WORTH AND EXCELLENCY OF THIS DIVINE GIFT. That it is transcendently valuable, we may hence generally collect; that even in our Lord's esteem it did not only countervail, but in a manner surmount the benefit of His presence. "It is expedient for you that I go away," etc. But to take a more distinct survey of its benefits.
1. We owe to the Holy Spirit our spiritual state and being; our spiritual life, freedom, and honourable condition.
(1) By virtue of this "quickening Spirit" we are raised from death to an immortal state of life, being "quickened together with Christ."(2) We are enfranchised from intolerable slavery, from "the spirit of bondage unto fear," etc.
(3) We are also advanced to an honourable condition, ennobled with illustrious relations, and entitled to glorious privileges: for thence "we have access unto the Father, and are no more strangers, but fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God."
2. Neither only relatively and extrinsically is our estate thus bettered, but we ourselves are answerably changed and amended by the same Holy Spirit; being "renewed in the spirit of our mind"; becoming "new creatures, created according to God in righteousness." Such doctrines, as that our happiness consists not in affluence of temporal enjoyments, but in a disposition of mind curbing our appetites and quelling our passions; in conformity of practice to rules distasteful to our sense; in gaining and retaining the love of an Infinite Being; that naked goodness is to be preferred before all the pomp and glory of this world, etc.; such doctrines are indeed hard and harsh to us, absurd to our natural conceits, and abominable to our carnal minds: of our own accord, without Divine attraction, we never should come to Christ. His own disciples struggled against such doctrines, and without the aid of the Spirit would scarcely have admitted many evangelical truths. As for the mighty sages of the world, "the wise men according to the flesh," they were far more ready to deride than to admit them. Though some few sparks of Divine knowledge may have been driven out by rational consideration and philosophical study, yet no external instruction, no interior discourse, could remove the mists of ignorance, and awaken the lethargic stupidity of their souls. Thus is the light of spiritual knowledge, together with a temper of mind disposed to receive it, communicated by the Holy Spirit. But farther than this, by the same Divine power is imparted vital heat and vigour, active strength and courage. Though our spirit should be willing, yet our flesh is weak: knowledge therefore and willingness to do good are not alone sufficient.
3. The continued subsistence and preservation of our spiritual being, and active powers, the actual use and exercise of them, all our discreet conduct, all our good practice, rely on the Holy Spirit. It is true of our spiritual no less than of our natural life; "if He doth avert His face we are troubled," etc. On all occasions we need His direction, aid, and comfort; for "the way of man is not in himself," etc. Vie are vain and fickle in our purposes, slow in our proceedings; apt to faint and stumble in our practice; we need therefore this sure oracle and faithful friend, to guide, encourage, and support us; to guard us in trials; comfort us in afflictions; and impart to us joy unspeakable in believing and well-doing. So many and great are the blessings which He imparts to us.Conclusion.
1. Let us earnestly invite this Holy Guest unto us, by our prayers unto Him, who hath promised to bestow His Spirit on those which ask it, to impart this living stream to every one which thirsteth after it.
2. Let us willingly receive Him into our hearts, let us treat Him with all kind usage, with all humble observance. Let us not exclude Him by supine neglect, or rude resistance; let us not grieve Him by our perverse and froward behaviour towards Him; let us not tempt Him by our fond presumptions, or base treacheries: let us not quench His heavenly light and heat by our foul lusts and passions: but let us admit gladly His gentle illapses; let us hearken to His faithful suggestions; let us comply with His kindly motions; let us demean ourselves modestly, consistently, and officiously toward Him.
(I. Barrow, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.